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Mad Day Trader Jim Parker?s Q1, 2015 Views

Mad Day Trader Jim Parker is expecting the first quarter of 2015 to offer plenty of volatility and loads of great trading opportunities. He thinks the scariest moves may already be behind us.

After a ferocious week of decidedly ?RISK OFF? markets, the sweet spots going forward will be of the ?RISK ON? variety. Sector leadership could change daily, with a brutal rotation, depending on whether the price of oil is up, down, or sideways.

The market is paying the price of having pulled forward too much performance from 2015 back into the final month of 2014, when we all watched the December melt up slack jawed.

Jim is a 40-year veteran of the financial markets and has long made a living as an independent trader in the pits at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He worked his way up from a junior floor runner to advisor to some of the world?s largest hedge funds. We are lucky to have him on our team and gain access to his experience, knowledge and expertise.

Jim uses a dozen proprietary short-term technical and momentum indicators to generate buy and sell signals. Below are his specific views for the new quarter according to each asset class.

Stocks

The S&P 500 (SPY) and NASDAQ have met all of Jim?s short-term downside targets, and a sustainable move up from here is in the cards. But if NASDAQ breaks 4,100 to the downside, all bets are off.

His favorite sector is health care (XLV), which seems immune to all troubles, and may have already seen its low for the year. Jim is also enamored with technology stocks (XLK).

The coming year will be a great one for single stock pickers. Priceline (PCLN) is a great short, dragged down by the weak Euro, where they get much of their business. Ford Motors (F) probably bottomed yesterday, and is a good offsetting long.

Bonds

Jim is not inclined to stand in front of a moving train, so he likes the Treasury bond market (TLT), (TBT). He thinks the 30-year yield could reach an eye popping 2.25%. A break there is worth another 10 basis points. Bonds are getting a strong push from a flight to safety, huge US capital inflows, and an endlessly strong dollar.

Foreign Currencies

A short position in the Euro (FXE), (EUO) is the no brainer here. The problem is one of good new entry points. Real traders always have trouble selling into a free fall. But you might see profit taking as we approach $1.16 in the cash market.

The Aussie (FXA) is being dragged down by the commodity collapse and an indifferent government. The British pound (FXB) is has yet to recover from the erosion of confidence ignited by the Scotland independence vote and has further mud splattered upon it by the weak Euro.


Precious Metals

GOLD (GLD) could be in a good range pivoting off of the recent $1,140 bottom. The gold miners (GDX) present the best opportunity at catching some volatility. The barbarous relic is pulling up the price of silver (SLV) as well. Buy the hard breaks, and then take quick profits. In a deflationary world, there is no long-term trade here. It is a real field of broken dreams.

Energy

Jim is not willing to catch a falling knife in the oil space (USO). He has too few fingers as it is. It has become too difficult to trade, as the algorithms are now in charge, and a lot of gap moves take place in the overnight markets. Don?t bother with fundamentals as they are irrelevant. No one really knows where the bottom in oil is.

Agriculturals

Jim is friendly to the ags (CORN), (SOYB), (DBA), but only on sudden pullbacks. However, there are no new immediate signals here. So he is just going to wait. The next directional guidance will come with the big USDA report at the end of January. The ags are further clouded by a murky international picture, with the collapse of the Russian ruble allowing the rogue nation to undercut prices on the international market.

Volatility

Volatility (VIX), (VXX) is probably going to peak out her soon in the $23-$25 range. The next week or so will tell for sure. A lot hangs on Friday?s December nonfarm payroll report. Every trader out there remembers that the last three visits to this level were all great shorts. However, the next bottom will be higher, probably around the $16 handle.

If you are not already getting Jim?s dynamite Mad Day Trader service, please get yourself the unfair advantage you deserve. Just email Nancy in customer support at support@madhedgefundtrader.com and ask for the $1,500 a year upgrade to your existing Global Trading Dispatch service.

 

Volatility WeeklyVolatility Weekly

 

Volatility Monthly (2)Volatility Monthly

 

Euro to the DollarEuro to the Dollar

 

PCLN 1-7-15

F 1-7-15

Jim Parker

2015 Annual Asset Class Review

Zephyr

I am once again writing this report from a first class sleeping cabin on Amtrak?s California Zephyr. By day, I have two comfortable seats facing each other next to a broad window. At night, they fold into bunk beds, a single and a double. There is a shower, but only Houdini could get in and out of it.

We are now pulling away from Chicago?s Union Station, leaving its hurried commuters, buskers, panhandlers, and majestic great halls behind. I am headed for Emeryville, California, just across the bay from San Francisco. That gives me only 56 hours to complete this report.

I tip my porter, Raymond, $100 in advance to make sure everything goes well during the long adventure, and to keep me up to date with the onboard gossip.

The rolling and pitching of the car is causing my fingers to dance all over the keyboard. Spellchecker can catch most of the mistakes, but not all of them. Thank goodness for small algorithms.

 

station

As both broadband and cell phone coverage are unavailable along most of the route, I have to rely on frenzied searches during stops at major stations along the way to chase down data points.

You know those cool maps in the Verizon stores that show the vast coverage of their cell phone networks? They are complete BS. Who knew that 95% of America is off the grid? That explains a lot about our politics today. I have posted many of my better photos from the trip below, although there is only so much you can do from a moving train and an iPhone.

After making the rounds with strategists, portfolio managers, and hedge fund traders, I can confirm that 2014 was one of the toughest to trade for careers lasting 30, 40, or 50 years. Yet again, the stay at home index players have defeated the best and the brightest.

With the Dow gaining a modest 8% in 2014, and S&P 500 up a more virile 14.2%, this was a year of endless frustration. Volatility fell to the floor, staying at a monotonous 12% for seven boring consecutive months. Most hedge funds lagged the index by miles.

My Trade Alert Service, hauled in an astounding 30.3% profit, at the high was up 42.7%, and has become the talk of the hedge fund industry. That was double the S&P 500 index gain.

If you think I spend too much time absorbing conspiracy theories from the Internet, let me give you a list of the challenges I see financial markets facing in the coming year:

 

JT & conductor

The Ten Highlights of 2015

1) Stocks will finish 2015 higher, almost certainly more than the previous year, somewhere in the 10-15% range. Cheap energy, ultra low interest rates, and 3-4% GDP growth, will expand multiples. It?s Goldilocks with a turbocharger.

2) Performance this year will be back-end loaded into the fourth quarter, as it was in 2014. The path forward became so clear, that some of 2015?s performance was pulled forward into November, 2014.

3) The Treasury bond market will modestly grind down, anticipating the inevitable rate rise from the Federal Reserve.

4) The yen will lose another 10%-20% against the dollar.

5) The Euro will fall another 10%, doing its best to hit parity with the greenback, with the assistance of beleaguered continental governments.

6) Oil stays in a $50-$80 range, showering the economy with hundreds of billions of dollars worth of de facto tax cuts.

7) Gold finally bottoms at $1,000 after one more final flush, then rallies (My jeweler was right, again).

8) Commodities finally bottom out, thanks to new found strength in the global economy, and begin a modest recovery.

9) Residential real estate has made its big recovery, and will grind up slowly from here.

10) After a tumultuous 2014, international political surprises disappear, the primary instigators of trouble becalmed by collapsed oil revenues.

 

windmills

The Thumbnail Portfolio

Equities – Long. A rising but low volatility year takes the S&P 500 up to 2,350. This year we really will get another 10% correction. Technology, biotech, energy, solar, and financials lead.

Bonds – Short. Down for the entire year with long periods of stagnation.

Foreign Currencies – Short. The US dollar maintains its bull trend, especially against the Yen and the Euro.

Commodities – Long. A China recovery takes them up eventually.

Precious Metals – Stand aside. We get the final capitulation selloff, then a rally.

Agriculture – Long. Up, because we can?t keep getting perfect weather forever.

Real estate – Long. Multifamily up, commercial up, single family homes sideways to up small.

 

farmland

1) The Economy – Fortress America

This year, it?s all about oil, whether it stays low, shoots back up, or falls lower. The global crude market is so big, so diverse, and subject to so many variables, that it is essentially unpredictable.

No one has an edge, not the major producers, consumers, or the myriad middlemen. For proof, look at how the crash hit so many ?experts? out of the blue.

This means that most economic forecasts for the coming year are on the low side, as they tend to be insular and only examine their own back yard, with most predictions still carrying a 2% handle.

I think the US will come in at the 3%-4% range, and the global recovery spawns a cross leveraged, hockey stick effect to the upside. This will be the best performance in a decade. Most company earnings forecasts are low as well.

There is one big positive that we can count on in the New Year. Corporate earnings will probably come in at $130 a share for the S&P 500, a gain of 10% over the previous year. During the last five years, we have seen the most dramatic increase in earnings in history, taking them to all-time highs.

This is set to continue. Furthermore, this growth will be front end loaded into Q1. The ?tell? was the blistering 5% growth rate we saw in Q3, 2014.

Cost cutting through layoffs is reaching an end, as there is no one left to fire. That leaves hyper accelerating technology and dramatically lower energy costs the remaining sources of margin increases, which will continue their inexorable improvements. Think of more machines and software replacing people.

You know all of those hundreds of billions raised from technology IPO?s in 2014. Most of that is getting plowed right back into new start ups, accelerating the rate of technology improvements even further, and the productivity gains that come with it.

You can count on demographics to be a major drag on this economy for the rest of the decade. Big spenders, those in the 46-50 age group, don?t return in large numbers until 2022.

But this negative will be offset by a plethora of positives, like technology, global expansion, and the lingering effects of Ben Bernanke?s massive five year quantitative easing. A time to pay the piper for all of this largess will come. But it could be a decade off.

I believe that the US has entered a period of long-term structural unemployment similar to what Germany saw in the 1990?s. Yes, we may grind down to 5%, but no lower than that. Keep close tabs on the weekly jobless claims that come out at 8:30 AM Eastern every Thursday for a good read as to whether the financial markets will head in a ?RISK ON? or ?RISK OFF? direction.

Most of the disaster scenarios predicted for the economy this year were based on the one off black swans that never amounted to anything, like the Ebola virus, ISIS, and the Ukraine.

Being continually afraid is expensive.

 

Moose on Snowy MountainA Rocky Mountain Moose Family

 

2) Equities (SPX), (QQQ), (AAPL), (XLF), (BAC), (EEM),(EWZ), (RSX), (PIN), (FXI), (TUR), (EWY), (EWT), (IDX)

With the economy going gangbusters, and corporate earnings reaching $130 a share, those with a traditional ?buy and hold? approach to the stock market will do alright, provided they are willing to sleep through some gut churning volatility. A Costco sized bottle of Jack Daniels and some tranquillizers might help too.

Earnings multiples will increase as well, as much as 10%, from the current 17X to 18.5X, thanks to a prolonged zero interest rate regime from the Fed, a massive tax cut in the form of cheap oil, unemployment at a ten year low, and a paucity of attractive alternative investments.

This is not an outrageous expectation, given the 10-22 earnings multiple range that we have enjoyed during the last 30 years. If anything, it is amazing how low multiples are, given the strong tailwinds the economy is enjoying.

The market currently trades around fair value, and no market in history ever peaked out here. An overshoot to the upside, often a big one, is mandatory.
After all, my friend, Janet Yellen, is paying you to buy stock with cheap money, so why not?

This is how the S&P 500 will claw its way up to 2,350 by yearend, a gain of about 12.2% from here. Throw in dividends, and you should pick up 14.2% on your stock investments in 2015.

This does not represent a new view for me. It is simply a continuation of the strategy I outlined again in October, 2014 (click here for ?Why US Stocks Are Dirt Cheap?).

Technology will be the top-performing sector once again this year. They will be joined by consumer cyclicals (XLV), industrials (XLI), and financials (XLF).

The new members in the ?Stocks of the Month Club? will come from newly discounted and now high yielding stocks in the energy sector (XLE).

There is also a rare opportunity to buy solar stocks on the cheap after they have been unfairly dragged down by cheap oil like Solar City (SCTY) and the solar basket ETF (TAN). Revenues are rocketing and costs are falling.

After spending a year in the penalty box, look for small cap stocks to outperform. These are the biggest beneficiaries of cheap energy and low interest rates, and also have minimal exposure to the weak European and Asian markets.

Share prices will deliver anything but a straight-line move. We finally got our 10% correction in 2014, after a three-year hiatus. Expect a couple more in 2015. The higher prices rise, the more common these will become.

We will start with a grinding, protesting rally that takes us up to new highs, as the market climbs the proverbial wall of worry. Then we will suffer a heart stopping summer selloff, followed by another aggressive yearend rally.

Cheap money creates a huge incentive for companies to buy back their own stock. They divert money from their $3 trillion cash hoard, which earns nothing, retire shares paying dividends of 3% or more, and boost earnings per share without creating any new business. Call it financial engineering, but the market loves it.

Companies are also retiring stock through takeovers, some $2 trillion worth last year. Expect more of this to continue in the New Year, with a major focus on energy. Certainly, every hedge fund and activist investor out there is undergoing a crash course on oil fundamentals. After a 13-year bull market in energy, the industry is ripe for a cleanout.

This is happening in the face of both an individual and institutional base that is woefully underweight equities.

The net net of all of this is to create a systemic shortage of US equities. That makes possible simultaneous rising prices and earnings multiples that have taken us to investor heaven.

 

SPX 12-31-14

QQQ 12-31-14

IWM 12-31-14

XLE 12-31-14

snowy hillsFrozen Headwaters of the Colorado River

 

3) Bonds ?(TLT), (TBT), (JNK), (PHB), (HYG), (PCY), (MUB), (HCP), (KMP), (LINE)

Amtrak needs to fill every seat in the dining car, so you never know who you will get paired with.

There was the Vietnam vet Phantom jet pilot who now refused to fly because he was treated so badly at airports. A young couple desperate to get out of Omaha could only afford seats as far as Salt Lake City, sitting up all night. I paid for their breakfast.

A retired British couple was circumnavigating the entire US in a month on a ?See America Pass.? Mennonites returning home by train because their religion forbade airplanes.

If you told me that US GDP growth was 5%, unemployment was at a ten year low at 5.8%, and energy prices had just halved, I would have pegged the ten-year Treasury bond yield at 6.0%. Yet here we are at 2.10%.

Virtually every hedge fund manager and institutional investor got bonds wrong last year, expecting rates to rise. I was among them, but that is no excuse. At least I have good company.

You might as well take your traditional economic books and throw them in the trash. Apologies to John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Paul Samuelson.

The reasons for the debacle are myriad, but global deflation is the big one. With ten year German bunds yielding a paltry 50 basis points, and Japanese bonds paying a paltry 30 basis points, US Treasuries are looking like a bargain.

To this, you can add the greater institutional bond holding requirements of Dodd-Frank, a balancing US budget deficit, a virile US dollar, the commodity price collapse, and an enormous embedded preference for investors to keep buying whatever worked yesterday.

For more depth on the perennial strength of bonds, please click here for ?Ten Reasons Why I?m Wrong on Bonds?.

Bond investors today get an unbelievable bad deal. If they hang on to the longer maturities, they will get back only 80 cents worth of purchasing power at maturity for every dollar they invest.

But institutions and individuals will grudgingly lock in these appalling returns because they believe that the potential losses in any other asset class will be worse. The problem is that driving eighty miles per hour while only looking in the rear view mirror can be hazardous to your financial health.

While much of the current political debate centers around excessive government borrowing, the markets are telling us the exact opposite. A 2%, ten-year yield is proof to me that there is a Treasury bond shortage, and that the government is not borrowing too much money, but not enough.

There is another factor supporting bonds that no one is looking at. The concentration of wealth with the 1% has a side effect of pouring money into bonds and keeping it there. Their goal is asset protection and nothing else.

These people never sell for tax reasons, so the money stays there for generations. It is not recycled into the rest of the economy, as conservative economists insist. As this class controls the bulk of investable assets, this forestalls any real bond market crash, possibly for decades.

So what will 2015 bring us? I think that the erroneous forecast of higher yields I made last year will finally occur this year, and we will start to chip away at the bond market bubble?s granite edifice. I am not looking for a free fall in price and a spike up in rates, just a move to a new higher trading range.

The high and low for ten year paper for the past nine months has been 1.86% to 3.05%. We could ratchet back up to the top end of that range, but not much higher than that. This would enable the inverse Treasury bond bear ETF (TBT) to reverse its dismal 2014 performance, taking it from $46 back up to $76.

You might have to wait for your grandchildren to start trading before we see a return of 12% Treasuries, last seen in the early eighties. I probably won?t live that long.

Reaching for yield will continue to be a popular strategy among many investors, which is typical at market tops. That focuses buying on junk bonds (JNK) and (HYG), REITS (HCP), and master limited partnerships (KMP), (LINE).

There is also emerging market sovereign debt to consider (PCY). At least there, you have the tailwinds of long term strong economies, little outstanding debt, appreciating currencies, and higher interest rates than those found at home. This asset class was hammered last year, so we are now facing a rare entry point. However, keep in mind, that if you reach too far, your fingers get chopped off.

There is a good case for sticking with munis. No matter what anyone says, taxes are going up, and when they do, this will increase tax free muni values. So if you hate paying taxes, go ahead and buy this exempt paper, but only with the expectation of holding it to maturity. Liquidity could get pretty thin along the way, and mark to markets could be shocking. Be sure to consult with a local financial advisor to max out the state, county, and city tax benefits.

 

TLT 12-31-14

TBT 12-31-14

MennonitesA Visit to the 19th Century

 

4) Foreign Currencies (FXE), (EUO), (FXC), (FXA), (YCS), (FXY), (CYB)

There are only three things you need to know about trading foreign currencies in 2015: the dollar, the dollar, and the dollar. The decade long bull market in the greenback continues.

The chip shot here is still to play the Japanese yen from the short side. Japan?s Ministry of Finance is now, far and away, the most ambitious central bank hell bent on crushing the yen to rescue its dying economy.

The problems in the Land of the Rising Sun are almost too numerous to count: the world?s highest debt to GDP ratio, a horrific demographic problem, flagging export competitiveness against neighboring China and South Korea, and the world?s lowest developed country economic growth rate.

The dramatic sell off we saw in the Japanese currency since December, 2012 is the beginning of what I believe will be a multi decade, move down. Look for ?125 to the dollar sometime in 2015, and ?150 further down the road. I have many friends in Japan looking for and overshoot to ?200. Take every 3% pullback in the greenback as a gift to sell again.

With the US having the world?s strongest major economy, its central bank is, therefore, most likely to raise interest rates first. That translates into a strong dollar, as interest rate differentials are far and away the biggest decider of the direction in currencies. So the dollar will remain strong against the Australian and Canadian dollars as well.

The Euro looks almost as bad. While European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, has talked a lot about monetary easing, he now appears on the verge of taking decisive action.

Recurring financial crisis on the continent is forcing him into a massive round of Fed style quantitative easing through the buying of bonds issued by countless European entities. The eventual goal is to push the Euro down to parity with the buck and beyond.

For a sleeper, use the next plunge in emerging markets to buy the Chinese Yuan ETF (CYB) for your back book, but don?t expect more than single digit returns. The Middle Kingdom will move heaven and earth in order to keep its appreciation modest to maintain their crucial export competitiveness.

 

FXY 1-2-15

FXE 1-5-15

CYB 1-2-15

mountains

5) Commodities (FCX), (VALE), (MOO), (DBA), (MOS), (MON), (AGU), (POT), (PHO), (FIW), (CORN), (WEAT), (SOYB), (JJG)

There isn?t a strategist out there not giving thanks for not loading up on commodities in 2014, the preeminent investment disaster of 2015. Those who did are now looking for jobs on Craig?s List.

2014 was the year that overwhelming supply met flagging demand, both in Europe and Asia. Blame China, the big swing factor in the global commodity.

The Middle Kingdom is currently changing drivers of its economy, from foreign exports to domestic consumption. This will be a multi decade process, and they have $4 trillion in reserves to finance it.

It will still demand prodigious amounts of imported commodities, especially, oil, copper, iron ore, and coal, all of which we sell. But not as much as in the past. The derivative equity plays here, Freeport McMoRan (FCX) and Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (VALE), have all taken an absolute pasting.

The food commodities were certainly the asset class to forget about in 2014, as perfect weather conditions and over planting produced record crops for the second year in a row, demolishing prices. The associated equity plays took the swan dive with them.

However, the ags are still a tremendous long term Malthusian play. The harsh reality here is that the world is making people faster than the food to feed them, the global population jumping from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050.

Half of that increase comes in countries unable to feed themselves today, largely in the Middle East. The idea here is to use any substantial weakness, as we are seeing now, to build long positions that will double again if global warming returns in the summer, or if the Chinese get hungry.

The easy entry points here are with the corn (CORN), wheat (WEAT), and soybeans (SOYB) ETF?s. You can also play through (MOO) and (DBA), and the stocks Mosaic (MOS), Monsanto (MON), Potash (POT), and Agrium (AGU).

The grain ETF (JJG) is another handy fund. Though an unconventional commodity play, the impending shortage of water will make the energy crisis look like a cakewalk. You can participate in this most liquid of assets with the ETF?s (PHO) and (FIW).

 

CORN 1-2-15

DBA 1-2-15

PHO 1-2-15

JT snow angelSnow Angel on the Continental Divide

 

6) Energy (DIG), (RIG), (USO), (DUG), (DIG), (UNG), (USO), (OXY), (XLE), (X)

Yikes! What a disaster! Energy in 2014 suffered price drops of biblical proportions. Oil lost the $30 risk premium it has enjoyed for the last ten years. Natural gas got hammered. Coal disappeared down a black hole.

Energy prices did this in the face of an American economy that is absolutely rampaging, its largest consumer.

Our train has moved over to a siding to permit a freight train to pass, as it has priority on the Amtrak system. Three Burlington Northern engines are heaving to pull over 100 black, brand new tank cars, each carrying 30,000 gallons of oil from the fracking fields in North Dakota.

There is another tank car train right behind it. No wonder Warren Buffett tap dances to work every day, as he owns the road. US Steel (X) also does the two-step, since they provide immense amounts of steel to build these massive cars.

The US energy boom sparked by fracking will be the biggest factor altering the American economic landscape for the next two decades. It will flip us from a net energy importer to an exporter within two years, allowing a faster than expected reduction in military spending in the Middle East.

Cheaper energy will bestow new found competitiveness on US companies that will enable them to claw back millions of jobs from China in dozens of industries. This will end our structural unemployment faster than demographic realities would otherwise permit.

We have a major new factor this year in considering the price of energy. Peace in the Middle East, especially with Iran, always threatened to chop $30 off the price of Texas tea. But it was a pie-in-the-sky hope. Now there are active negotiations underway in Geneva for Iran to curtail or end its nuclear program. This could be one of the black swans of 2015, and would be hugely positive for risk assets everywhere.

Enjoy cheap oil while it lasts because it won?t last forever. American rig counts are already falling off a cliff and will eventually engineer a price recovery.

Add the energies of oil (DIG), Cheniere Energy (LNG), the energy sector ETF (XLE), Conoco Phillips (COP), and Occidental Petroleum (OXY). Skip natural gas (UNG) price plays and only go after volume plays, because the discovery of a new 100-year supply from ?fracking? and horizontal drilling in shale formations is going to overhang this subsector for a very long time.

It is a basic law of economics that cheaper prices bring greater demand and growing volumes, which have to be transported. However, major reforms are required in Washington before use of this molecule goes mainstream.

These could be your big trades of 2015, but expect to endure some pain first.

 

Baker Hughes Rig Count

WTIC 1-2-15

UNG 1-2-15

OXY 1-2-15

Train

7) Precious Metals (GLD), (DGP), (SLV), (PPTL), (PALL)

The train has added extra engines at Denver, so now we may begin the long laboring climb up the Eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains.

On a steep curve, we pass along an antiquated freight train of hopper cars filled with large boulders. The porter tells me this train is welded to the tracks to create a windbreak. Once, a gust howled out of the pass so swiftly that it blew a train over on to its side.

In the snow filled canyons we sight a family of three moose, a huge herd of elk, and another group of wild mustangs. The engineer informs us that a rare bald eagle is flying along the left side of the train. It?s a good omen for the coming year. We also see countless abandoned gold mines and the broken down wooden trestles leading to them, so it is timely here to speak about precious metals.

As long as the world is clamoring for paper assets like stocks and bonds, gold is just another shiny rock. After all, who needs an insurance policy if you are going to live forever?

We have already broken $1,200 once, and a test of $1,000 seems in the cards before a turnaround ensues. There are more hedge fund redemptions and stop losses to go. The bear case has the barbarous relic plunging all the way down to $700.

But the long-term bull case is still there. Someday, we are going to have to pay the piper for the $4.5 trillion expansion in the Fed?s balance sheet over the past five years, and inflation will return. Gold is not dead; it is just resting. I believe that the monetary expansion arguments to buy gold prompted by massive quantitative easing are still valid.

If you forgot to buy gold at $35, $300, or $800, another entry point is setting up for those who, so far, have missed the gravy train. The precious metals have to work off a severely, decade old overbought condition before we make substantial new highs. Remember, this is the asset class that takes the escalator up and the elevator down, and sometimes the window.

If the institutional world devotes just 5% of their assets to a weighting in gold, and an emerging market central bank bidding war for gold reserves continues, it has to fly to at least $2,300, the inflation adjusted all-time high, or more.

This is why emerging market central banks step in as large buyers every time we probe lower prices. For me, that pegs the range for 2015 at $1,000-$1,400. ETF players can look at the 1X (GLD) or the 2X leveraged gold (DGP).

I would also be using the next bout of weakness to pick up the high beta, more volatile precious metal, silver (SLV), which I think could hit $50 once more, and eventually $100.

What will be the metals to own in 2015? Palladium (PALL) and platinum (PPLT), which have their own auto related long term fundamentals working on their behalf, would be something to consider on a dip. With US auto production at 17 million units a year and climbing, up from a 9 million low in 2009, any inventory problems will easily get sorted out.

 

GOLD 1-2-15

SILVER 1-2-15

sunsetWould You Believe This is a Blue State?

8) Real Estate (ITB)

The majestic snow covered Rocky Mountains are behind me. There is now a paucity of scenery, with the endless ocean of sagebrush and salt flats of Northern Nevada outside my window, so there is nothing else to do but write. My apologies to readers in Wells, Elko, Battle Mountain, and Winnemucca, Nevada.

It is a route long traversed by roving banks of Indians, itinerant fur traders, the Pony Express, my own immigrant forebears in wagon trains, the transcontinental railroad, the Lincoln Highway, and finally US Interstate 80.

There is no doubt that there is a long-term recovery in real estate underway. We are probably 8 years into an 18-year run at the next peak in 2024.

But the big money has been made here over the past two years, with some red hot markets, like San Francisco, soaring. If you live within commuting distance of Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), or Facebook (FB) headquarters in California, you are looking at multiple offers, bidding wars, and prices at all time highs.

From here on, I expect a slow grind up well into the 2020?s. If you live in the rest of the country, we are talking about small, single digit gains. The consequence of pernicious deflation is that home prices appreciate at a glacial pace. At least, it has stopped going down, which has been great news for the financial industry.

There are only three numbers you need to know in the housing market: there are 80 million baby boomers, 65 million Generation Xer?s who follow them, and 85 million in the generation after that, the Millennials.

The boomers have been unloading dwellings to the Gen Xer?s since prices peaked in 2007. But there are not enough of the latter, and three decades of falling real incomes mean that they only earn a fraction of what their parents made.

If they have prospered, banks won?t lend to them. Brokers used to say that their market was all about ?location, location, location?. Now it is ?financing, financing, financing?. Banks have gone back to the old standard of only lending money to people who don?t need it.

Consider the coming changes that will affect this market. The home mortgage deduction is unlikely to survive any real attempt to balance the budget. And why should renters be subsidizing homeowners anyway? Nor is the government likely to spend billions keeping Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac alive, which now account for 95% of home mortgages.

That means the home loan market will be privatized, leading to mortgage rates higher than today. It is already bereft of government subsidies, so loans of this size are priced at premiums. This also means that the fixed rate 30-year loan will go the way of the dodo, as banks seek to offload duration risk to consumers. This happened long ago in the rest of the developed world.

There is a happy ending to this story. By 2022 the Millennials will start to kick in as the dominant buyers in the market. Some 85 million Millennials will be chasing the homes of only 65 Gen Xer?s, causing housing shortages and rising prices.

This will happen in the context of a labor shortfall and rising standards of living. Remember too, that by then, the US will not have built any new houses in large numbers in 15 years.

The best-case scenario for residential real estate is that it gradually moves up for another decade, unless you live in Cupertino or Mountain View. We won?t see sustainable double-digit gains in home prices until America returns to the Golden Age in the 2020?s, when it goes hyperbolic.

But expect to put up your first-born child as collateral, and bring your entire extended family in as cosigners if you want to get a bank loan.

That makes a home purchase now particularly attractive for the long term, to live in, and not to speculate with. This is especially true if you lock up today?s giveaway interest rates with a 30 year fixed rate loan. At 3.3% this is less than the long-term inflation rate.

You will boast about it to your grandchildren, as my grandparents once did to me.

 

Case-Shiller Home Prices Indices

ITB 1-2-15

BridgeCrossing the Bridge to Home Sweet Home

9) Postscript

We have pulled into the station at Truckee in the midst of a howling blizzard.

My loyal staff have made the 20 mile trek from my beachfront estate at Incline Village to welcome me to California with a couple of hot breakfast burritos and a chilled bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne, which has been resting in a nearby snowbank. I am thankfully spared from taking my last meal with Amtrak.

Well, that?s all for now. We?ve just passed the Pacific mothball fleet moored in the Sacramento River Delta and we?re crossing the Benicia Bridge. The pressure increase caused by an 8,200 foot descent from Donner Pass has crushed my water bottle. The Golden Gate Bridge and the soaring spire of the Transamerica Building are just around the next bend across San Francisco Bay.

A storm has blown through, leaving the air crystal clear and the bay as flat as glass. It is time for me to unplug my Macbook Pro and iPhone 6, pick up my various adapters, and pack up.

We arrive in Emeryville 45 minutes early. With any luck, I can squeeze in a ten mile night hike up Grizzly Peak and still get home in time to watch the season opener for Downton Abbey season five. I reach the ridge just in time to catch a spectacular pastel sunset over the Pacific Ocean. The omens are there. It is going to be another good year.

I?ll shoot you a Trade Alert whenever I see a window open on any of the trades above.

Good trading in 2015!

John Thomas
The Mad Hedge Fund Trader

 

JT at workThe Omens Are Good for 2015!

End of the Commodity Super Cycle

When the Trade Alerts quit working. I stop sending them out. That?s my trading strategy right now. It?s as simple as that.

So when I received a dozen emails this morning asking if it is time to double up on Linn Energy (LINE), I shot back ?Not yet!? There is no point until oil puts in a convincing bottom, and that may be 2015 business.

Traders have been watching in complete awe the rapid decent the price of Linn Energy, which is emerging as the most despised asset of 2014, after commodity producer Russia (RSX).

But it is becoming increasingly apparent that the collapse of prices for the many commodities is part of a much larger, longer-term macro trend.

(LINN) is doing the best impersonation of a company going chapter 11 I have ever seen, without actually going through with it. Only last Thursday, it paid out a dividend, which at today?s low, works out to a mind numbing 30% yield.

I tried calling the company, but they aren?t picking up, as they are inundated with inquires from investors. Search the Internet, and you find absolutely nothing. What you do find are the following reasons not to buy Linn Energy today:

1) Falling oil revenue is causing Venezuela to go bankrupt.
2) Large layoffs have started in the US oil industry.
3) The Houston real estate industry has gone zero bid.
4) Midwestern banks are either calling in oil patch loans, or not renewing them.
5) Hedge Funds have gone catatonic, their hands tied until new investor funds come in during the New Year.
6) Every oil storage facility in the world is now filled to the brim, including many of the largest tankers.

Let me tell you how insanely cheap (LINN) has gotten. In 2009, when the financial system was imploding and the global economy was thought to be entering a prolonged Great Depression, oil dropped to $30, and (LINN) to $7.50. Today, the US economy is booming, interest rates are scraping the bottom, employment is at an eight year high, and (LINE) hit $9.70, down $70 in six months.

Go figure.

My colleague, Mad Day Trader, Jim Parker, says this could all end on Thursday, when the front month oil futures contract expires. It could.

It isn?t just the oil that is hurting. So are the rest of the precious and semi precious metals (SLV), (PPLT), (PALL), base metals (CU), (BHP), oil (USO), and food (CORN), (WEAT), (SOYB), (DBA).

Many senior hedge fund managers are now implementing strategies assuming that the commodity super cycle, which ran like a horse with the bit between its teeth for ten years, is over, done, and kaput.

Former George Soros partner, hedge fund legend Paul Tudor Jones, has been leading the intellectual charge since last year for this concept. Many major funds have joined him.

Launching at the end of 2001, when gold, silver, copper, iron ore, and other base metals, hit bottom after a 21 year bear market, it is looking like the sector reached a multi decade peak in 2011.

Commodities have long been a leading source of profits for investors of every persuasion. During the 1970?s, when president Richard Nixon took the US off of the gold standard and inflation soared into double digits, commodities were everybody?s best friend. Then, Federal Reserve governor, Paul Volker, killed them off en masse by raising the federal funds rate up to a nosebleed 18.5%.

Commodities died a long slow and painful death. I joined Morgan Stanley about that time with the mandate to build an international equities business from scratch. In those days, the most commonly traded foreign securities were gold stocks. For years, I watched long-suffering clients buy every dip until they no longer ceased to exist.

The managing director responsible for covering the copper industry was steadily moved to ever smaller offices, first near the elevators, then the men?s room, and finally out of the building completely. He retired early when the industry consolidated into just two companies, and there was no one left to cover. It was heartbreaking to watch. Warning: we could be in for a repeat.

After two decades of downsizing, rationalization, and bankruptcies, the supply of most commodities shrank to a shadow of its former self by 2000. Then, China suddenly showed up as a voracious consumer of everything. It was off to the races, and hedge fund managers were sent scurrying to look up long forgotten ticker symbols and futures contracts.

By then commodities promoters, especially the gold bugs, had become a pretty scruffy lot. They would show up at conferences with dirt under their fingernails, wearing threadbare shirts and suits that looked like they came from the Salvation Army. As prices steadily rose, the Brioni suits started making appearances, followed by Turnbull & Asser shirts and Gucci loafers.

There was a crucial aspect of the bull case for commodities that made it particularly compelling. While you can simply create more stocks and bonds by running a printing press, or these days, creating digital entries on excel spreadsheets, that is definitely not the case with commodities. To discover deposits, raise the capital, get permits and licenses, pay the bribes, build the infrastructure, and dig the mines and pits for most commodities, takes 5-15 years.

So while demand may soar, supply comes on at a snail pace. Because these markets were so illiquid, a 1% rise in demand would easily crease price hikes of 50%, 100%, and more. That is exactly what happened. Gold soared from $250 to $1,922. This is what a hedge fund manager will tell us is the perfect asymmetric trade. Silver rocketed from $2 to $50. Copper leapt from 80 cents a pound to $4.50. Everyone instantly became commodities experts. An underweight position in the sector left most managers in the dust.

Some 14 years later and now what are we seeing? Many of the gigantic projects that started showing up on drawing boards in 2001 are coming on stream. In the meantime, slowing economic growth in China means their appetite has become less than endless.

Supply and demand fell out of balance. The infinitesimal change in demand that delivered red-hot price gains in the 2000?s is now producing equally impressive price declines. And therein lies the problem. Click here for my piece on the mothballing of brand new Australian iron ore projects, ?BHP Cuts Bode Ill for the Global Economy?.

But this time it may be different. In my discussions with the senior Chinese leadership over the years, there has been one recurring theme. They would love to have America?s service economy.

I always tell them that they have a real beef with their ancient ancestors. When they migrated out of Africa 50,000 years ago, they stopped moving the people exactly where the natural resources aren?t. If they had only continued a little farther across the Bering Straights to North America, they would be drowning in resources, as we are in the US.

By upgrading their economy from a manufacturing, to a services based economy, the Chinese will substantially change the makeup of their GDP growth. Added value will come in the form of intellectual capital, which creates patents, trademarks, copyrights, and brands. The raw material is brainpower, which China already has plenty of.

There will no longer be any need to import massive amounts of commodities from abroad. If I am right, this would explain why prices for many commodities have fallen further that a Middle Kingdom economy growing at a 7.5% annual rate would suggest. This is the heart of the argument that the commodities super cycle is over.

If so, the implications for global assets prices are huge. It is great news for equities, especially for big commod
ity importing countries like the US, Japan, and Europe. This may be why we are seeing such straight line, one way moves up in global equity markets this year.

It is very bad news for commodity exporting countries, like Australia, South America, and the Middle East. This is why a large short position in the Australian dollar is a core position in Tudor-Jones? portfolio. Take a look at the chart for Aussie against the US dollar (FXA) since 2013, and it looks like it has come down with a severe case of Montezuma?s revenge.

The Aussie could hit 80 cents, and eventually 75 cents to the greenback before the crying ends. Australians better pay for their foreign vacations fast before prices go through the roof. It also explains why the route has carried on across such a broad, seemingly unconnected range of commodities.

In the end, my friend at Morgan Stanley had the last laugh.

When the commodity super cycle began, there was almost no one around still working who knew the industry as he did. He was hired by a big hedge fund and earned a $25 million performance bonus in the first year out. And he ended up with the biggest damn office in the whole company, a corner one with a spectacular view of midtown Manhattan.

He is now retired for good, working on his short game at Pebble Beach.

Good for you, John.

 

LINE 12-15-14

TNX 12-15-14

COPPER 3-21-14

FXA 12-15-14

GOLD 3-21-14

WTIC 12-12-14

 

Gold Coins

Not as Shiny as it Once Was

She Speaks!

Like a deer frozen in a car?s onrushing headlights, markets have been comatose awaiting Federal Reserve governor Janet Yellen?s decision on monetary policy and interest rates.

Interest rates are unchanged. Quantitative easing gets cut by $15 billion next month, and then goes to zero. Most importantly the key ?considerable period? language stayed in the FOMC statements, meaning that interest rates are staying lower for longer.

Personally, I don?t think she?s raising interest rates until 2016. The number of dissenters increased from one to two, but then both of them (Fisher and Plosser) are lame ducks. And, oh yes, the composition of the 2015 Fed will be the most dovish in history.

The latest data points made this a no brainer, what with the August nonfarm payroll coming in at a weak 142,000, and this morning?s CPI plunging to a deflationary -0.20% for the first time since the crash.

Of course, you already knew all of this if you have been reading the Mad Hedge Fund Trader. You knew it three months ago, six months ago, and even a year ago, before Janet Yellen was appointed as America?s chief central banker. Such is the benefit of lunching with her for five years while she was president of the San Francisco Fed.

The markets reacted predictably, with the Euro (FXE), (EUO), and the yen (FXY), (YCS) hitting new multiyear lows, Treasury bonds (TLT), (TBT) breaking down, and precious metals (GLD), (SLV) taking it on the kisser.

What Janet did not do was give us an entry point for an equity Trade Alert (SPY), with the indexes close to unchanged on the day. The high frequency trader?s front ran the entire move yesterday.

Virtually all asset classes are now sitting at the end of extreme moves, up for the dollar (UUP) and stocks, and down for the euro, yen, gold, silver, the ags, bonds and oil. It?s not a good place to dabble.

Putting on a trade here is a coin toss. And when you?re up 30.36% on the year, you don?t do coin tosses. At this time of the year, protecting gains is more important than chasing marginal gains, which people probably won?t believe anyway.

If you want to understand my uncharacteristic cautiousness, take a look at the chart below sent by a hedge fund buddy of mine. It shows that investor credit at all time highs are pushing to nosebleed altitudes. Not good, not good. Oops! Did somebody just say ?Flash Crash??

This is not to say that I?m bearish, I?m just looking for a better entry point, especially as the Q????????? 3 quarter end looms. I?ve gotten spoiled this year. Maybe the Scottish election results, the Alibaba IPO, or the midterm congressional elections will give us one. Buying here at a new all time high doesn?t qualify.

It?s time to maintain your discipline.

Sorry, no more pearls of wisdom today. I?ve come down with the flu.

Apparently, this year?s flu shot doesn?t cover the virulent Portland, Oregon variety. Was it the designer coffee that did it, the vintage clothes, or those giant doughnuts dripping with sugar?

Back to the aspirin, the antibiotics, the vitamin ?C?, and a chant taught to me by a Cherokee medicine man.

 

GLD 9-17-14

YCS 9-17-14

FXE 9-17-14

NYSE Investor Credit and the Market

John Thomas

Revisiting the First Silver Bubble

With smoke still rising from the ruins of the recent silver crash, I thought I’d touch base with a wizened and grizzled old veteran who still remembers the last time a bubble popped for the white metal. That would be Mike Robertson, who runs Robertson Wealth Management, one of the largest and most successful registered investment advisors in the country.

Mike is the last surviving silver broker to the Hunt Brothers, who in 1979-80 were major players in the run up in the ‘poor man’s gold’ from $11 to a staggering $50 an ounce in a very short time. At the peak, their aggregate position was thought to exceed 100 million ounces.

Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt were the sons of the legendary HL Hunt, one of the original East Texas oil wildcatters, and heirs to one of the largest fortunes of the day. Shortly after president Richard Nixon took the US off the gold standard in 1971, the two brothers became deeply concerned about financial viability of the United States government. To protect their assets they began accumulating silver through coins, bars, the silver refiner, Asarco, and even antique tea sets, and when they opened, silver contracts on the futures markets.

The brothers? interest in silver was well known for years, and prices gradually rose. But when inflation soared into double digits, a giant spotlight was thrown upon them, and the race was on. Mike was then a junior broker at the Houston office of Bache & Co., in which the Hunts held a minority stake, and handled a large part of their business.?The turnover in silver contracts exploded. Mike confesses to waking up some mornings, turning on the radio to hear silver limit up, and then not bothering to go to work because he knew there would be no trades.

The price of silver ran up so high that it became a political problem. Several officials at the CFTC were rumored to be getting killed on their silver shorts. Eastman Kodak (EK), whose black and white film made them one of the largest silver consumers in the country, was thought to be borrowing silver from the Treasury to stay in business.

The Carter administration took a dim view of the Hunt Brothers’ activities, especially considering their funding of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society. The Feds viewed it as a conspiratorial attempt to undermine the US government. It was time to pay the piper.

The CFTC raised margin rates to 100%. The Hunts were accused of market manipulation and ordered to unwind their position. They were subpoenaed by Congress to testify about their motives. After a decade of litigation, Bunker received a lifetime ban from the commodities markets, a $10 million fine, and was forced into a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Mike saw commissions worth $14 million in today’s money go unpaid. In the end, he was only left with a Rolex watch, his broker’s license, and a silver Mercedes. He still ardently believes today that the Hunts got a raw deal, and that their only crime was to be right about the long term attractiveness of silver as an inflation hedge.

Nelson made one of the great asset allocation calls of all time and was punished severely for it. There never was any intention to manipulate markets. As far as he knew, the Hunts never paid more than the $20 handle for silver, and that all of the buying that took it up to $50 was nothing more than retail froth.

Through the lens of 20/20 hindsight, Mike views the entire experience as a morality tale, a warning of what happens when you step on the toes of the wrong people.

And what does the old silver trader think of prices today? Mike saw the current collapse coming from a mile off. He thinks silver is showing all the signs of a broken market, and doesn’t want to touch it until it revisits the $20’s. But the white metal’s inflation fighting qualities are still as true as ever, and it is only a matter of time before prices once again take another long run to the upside.

SLV 10-18-13

SLW 10-18-13

Nelson Bunker Hunt

Silver DollarSilver is Still a Great Inflation Hedge

Gold: Next Stop $1,250!

Sometimes, the best trades are the ones you don?t do. I actually wrote up a Trade Alert to buy gold on Thursday, figuring that it would bounce the first time it hit my downside target of $1,500.

But then I scanned the entire hard asset landscape, and saw that everything was selling off huge; silver (SLV), platinum (PPLT), palladium (PALL), oil (USO), copper (CU), and iron ore. I took a long nap. When I woke up, I decided that there was something much bigger going on here, and the urge to buy the barbarous relic suddenly vaporized. I sent the Trade Alert to my recycle bin.

The selloff that ensued on Friday was of Biblical proportions, with the yellow metal taking an unbelievable $86, 5.5% swan dive. They say this is the commodity that takes the stairs up and the elevator down, and that was no more true than today.

I have been pounding the table trying to get readers out of gold since early December. It is clear what is going on here. The world is dumping hard assets of every description and pouring the money into paper ones. Commodities you can drop on your foot are getting dumped, and generous premiums are being paid for anything that can be created with a printing press. It?s as simple as that.

This is why you are having both bonds and stocks going up at the same time, a rare event in capital markets. In effect, everything is now a bond, both the wide array of fixed income securities that are getting chased, along with dividend yielding stocks. This is why a wide swath of technology stocks, like Apple (AAPL), are not participating in the game.

I called around to some of the leading technical analysts to see how much pain gold was in for. The tidings were grim. The 200-week moving average at $1,433 looks like a chip shot. If that doesn?t hold, then $1,300 is in the cards. My favorite target is the old October, 2009 breakout level where the Reserve Bank of India came in out of the blue and bought 200 tonnes of the sparkly stuff, punching it through to a new all time high. The previous resistance should now become support. This is the number my jeweler favors.

To make matters particularly fiendish for traders, we may see a breakdown well into the $1,400?s that sucks in tons of capitulation sellers, then a big bounce before a downtrend resumes. It is a scenario that will be enough to test even the most devoted of gold bugs.

At risk is nothing less than the end of a bull market that is entering its 12th year. The shares of gold miners suggest that the demise of gold is already a foregone conclusion. The index for this group (GDM) has breached major support once again and is looking for a new four year low. Since this index usually correlates very highly with the barbarous relic, the writing is on the wall.

There are a host of reasons why the yellow metal has suddenly become so unloved. The largest holder of the gold ETF (GLD), John Paulson, is getting big redemptions in his hedge fund, forcing him to sell. This is why the selling is so apparent in the paper gold markets, like the ETF?s, but not in the physical bars and coins.

India has suddenly seen its currency, the rupee, drop against the greenback. That reduces the buying power of the world?s largest gold importer. With years of pernicious deflation ahead of us, who needs a traditional inflation hedge like the yellow metal anyway?

The hyper quantitative easing announced by the BOJ last week has created an entire new class of gold liquidators. Gold has actually risen dramatically in yen (FXY) terms over the past five months, so retail jewelers across Japan have had to expand business hours to accommodate long lines of eager sellers. The overflow is hitting the international markets big time.

Here is the final nail in the coffin for gold. Gold has had a dozen reasons to rally over the past six months. Those include the European monetary crisis, the Italian elections, the Spanish elections, the Cyprus bank account seizures, sequestration, the fiscal cliff, Ben Bernanke?s QE3, the Japanese ultra QE, rising capital gains taxes, and even the reelection of president Obama. It has utterly failed to do so.

Any trader long in the tooth, such as myself, will tell you that if a market can?t rally on repeated fabulous news, then you sell the daylights out of it. That is what we got with gold, in spades, on Friday.

GOLD 4-11-13

GLD 4-12-13

SLV 4-12-13

GDX 4-12-13

Market Down

Don't Miss the Big Show in Silver.

Those transfixed by gold blasting through the $1,750 level have been missing the real action in silver. The white metal has soared 34% to $34 since the beginning of the year, compared to only a 14% move for the barbaric relic, an outperformance of 2.4 to one. I have been a raging bull on the precious metals space since early August. Silver gives you additional diversification into the space with that extra bit of spice on the volatility side.

It is nothing less than owning gold with a turbocharger. Silver gives you a nice double play. Its qualities as a precious metal are giving it a major boost from the flight from the dollar, a certainty since Ben Bernanke proclaimed QE3.? It is also an industrial commodity, which unlike gold, is consumed, and therefore gives you a call on the recovering economy. Most of the silver mined in history has been burned, used in chemical processes, is sitting at the dump, or in people?s teeth in graveyards around the world.

If you don?t think this move is real, check out the shares of the silver producers. Coeur D Alene Mines (CDE) has rocketed by a gob smacking 92% in less than three months, while Silver Wheaton (SLW), and Hecla Mining (HL) have also done almost as well.

Until the shock value of the magnitude of this QE3 are fully digested by the market, the white metal should continue to appreciate. Should the ?RISK ON? move continue, $40 an ounce is on the table by early next year.

Players here should entertain calls or call spreads on the silver ETF (SLV). Those who like to live life dangerously can look at the triple leveraged long silver ETF (AGQ). If you are in the futures market, you trade a 5,000 ounce contract on the COMEX, which offers 8.8 times leverage on an initial maintenance requirement of $18,900.

Buy the Big Dip in Gold.

Look at the charts for the barbarous relic below and you can only come to one possible conclusion. If the Federal Reserve disappoints on Thursday, just a little bit, even by a smidgeon, and does not deliver QE3 and gold sells off big, you should jump in and by the stuff like crazy.

All of the charts for gold and the derivative plays are showing major breakouts to the upside. This is true for spot gold and the ETF (GLD), which broke a major downtrend line last week. It is the case for the gold miners ETF (GDX). It is also the reality for silver, the silver ETF (SLV), and the silver miners (SIL).

The entire precious metals space has been floated since the prospect of further quantitative easing from the world?s central banks started in earnest on May 15. Since then, it has been prudent and profitable to buy every dip.

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi did the heavy lifting in mid-July by promising to ?Do whatever it takes to rescue the Euro? (read: huge quantitative easing). He then put his money where his mouth was last week by announcing an unlimited bond-buying program.

Assorted dovish Federal Reserve governors have done their bit by talking up the prospect of further monetary easing. China threw in its ten cents by announcing a $150 billion reflationary budget on Friday. Even the Bank of Japan has been heard murmuring about additional money printing. It all has the smell of an international coordinated effort to reflate the global economy.

Where exactly do you get back in? The sweet spot in the (GLD) will be the 200 day moving average at $159.66, which fell at the end of August. That is down $7.94 in (GLD), or $79.40 in the spot market from here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would you Consider a Long-Term Relationship?

 

 

 

My Tactical View of the Market

The easy money has been made on the short side this year for a whole range of asset classes. While we will probably see lower lows from here, the risk/reward ratio for taking short positions in (SPX), (IWM), (FXE), (FXY), (GLD), (SLV), (USO), and (CU) are less favorable than they were two months ago.

Of course, the ultimate arbiter will be the news play and the economic data releases. It they continue to worsen as they have done, you can expect a brief rally in the (SPX) up to the 1,340-1,360 range before the downtrend resumes. First, we will revisit the old low for the move at 1,290. Then 1,250 cries out for attention, which would leave us dead unchanged on the year. Lining up next in the sites is 1,200. But to get that low, probably by August, we would need to see something dramatic out of Europe, which we may well get. For the Russell 2000, look to sell it at the old support range of $78-80, which now becomes overhead resistance, to target $72 on the downside.

Don?t underestimate the devastating impact the Facebook (FB) debacle will have on the overall market. Retail investors lost $6 billion on the deal after institutional investors were given the heads up on the impending disaster and stayed away in droves. The media has plenty of blood on its hands on this one. The day before the pricing, one noted Cable TV network reported that the deal was oversubscribed in Asia by 30:1. Morgan Stanley reached for the extra dollars, increasing the size, and boosting the price by 15%. It all came to tears.

Expect investigations, subpoenas, congressional hearings, prosecutions, multi million out of court settlements, thousands of lawsuits, and many careers ended ?to spend more time with families.? Horrible thought of the day: Apply Apple?s (AAPL) 8X multiple, which is growing at 100% a year, to Facebook, which is not, and you get a (FB) share price of $5. None of this exactly inspires confidence in the stock market.

 

 

 

Notice that emerging markets have really been sucking hind teat this year, dragged down by falling commodity prices, a slowing China, and a general ?RISK OFF? mood. This is probably the first sector you want to go back in at the summer bottom to take advantages of their higher upside betas.

 

 

The Euro went through the old 2012 low at $1.260 like a hot knife through butter. On the breach, a lot of momentum programs automatically kicked in and doubled up their short positions. That is what has taken us all the way down to the high $124 handle in the cash. Let?s see how the market digests this breakdown. The commitment of traders report out on Friday should be exciting, as we already have all-time highs in short positions in the beleaguered European currency.

The problem is that any good news whispers or accidental tweets on the sovereign debt crisis could trigger ferocious short covering and gap openings which the continental traders will get a head start on. So again, this is not the low risk trade that it was months ago.

Still, the 2010 lows at $1.18 are now on the menu. I would sell all the ?good news? rallies from here two cents higher. Aggressive traders might consider selling penny rallies, like the one we got today. Notice that the Euro is rallying into the US close every day. This is caused by American traders covering shorts, not wishing to run them into any overnight surprises.

The Japanese yen seems to be stagnating here once again, now that the Bank of Japan has passed on another opportunity to exercise more much needed quantitative easing. Therefore, I will use the next dip to get out of my September put options at a small loss. There is a better use of capital and bigger fish to fry these days.

The Australian dollar has been far and away the world?s worst major currency this year, falling from $110 all the way down to $94 on a spike. It now languishes at $97. I long ago stopped singing ?Waltzing Matilda? in the shower. I hope all my Ausie friends took my advice at the beginning of the year and paid for their European and American vacations while their currency was still dear. We could see as low as $90 in the months to come.

 

 

 

 

Gold (GLD) and silver (SLV) still look week, as this week?s failed rally attests. The strength of the Indian rupee still has the barbarous relic high priced for the world?s largest buyer, and this will continue to weigh on dollar based owners. But we are also reaching the tag ends of this move down from $1,922. Speculative short positions are at a multi-year low. It would take something pretty dramatic to get me to sell short gold again. For the time being, I am targeting gold at $1,500 on the downside, $1,450 in an extreme case, and $25 in silver.

 

 

 


We are well into the move south for oil, which peaked just at the March 1 Iranian elections just short of $110/barrel. The market now seems to be targeting $87 for the short term. The global economic slowdown is the clear culprit here. But in the US, we are starting to see a clear drag on oil prices caused by the insanely low price of natural gas. You can see this clearly on the charts below where gas has been rising while Texas tea has been plunging. Utilities and industry are switching over to the cleaner burning ultra cheap fuel source as fast as they can. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions are falling faster in the US than any other developed country, according to the Paris based International Energy Agency. Sell any $4 rally in crude and keep a tight stop.

 

 

 

When China catches cold, copper gets pneumonia. So does Australia (FXA), (EWA), for that matter. The China slowdown will most likely continue on into the summer, knocking the wind out of the red metal. If copper manages to rally back up to $3.60, grab it with both hands and throw it out the window. Cover when you hear a loud splat. That works out to about $26.50 in the ETF (CU).

 

 

 

 

It all points to a highly choppy and volatile ?RISK ON? rally that could last a week or two. It will be a time when you wish you took your mother in law?s advice to get a real job by becoming a cardiologist or plastic surgeon. Do you want to know when I want to reestablish my shorts? If you get a modestly positive nonfarm payroll on at 8:30 am on Friday, June 1, that could deliver a nice two day rally that would be ideal to sell into.

 

 

Is Quantitative Easing Over?

That is certainly the conclusion of the financial markets. When Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, failed to mention the magic words in his House Humphrey Hawkins testimony on Wednesday, risk assets were sent into a tailspin. Gold suffered a $100 move plunge in hours, the futures market seeing an almost instantaneous liquidation of $1.3 billion worth of contracts. Silver dropped 10%. Oil gave up $3 in a heartbeat.

What was truly impressive was the collapse of the Treasury bond market, which saw yields for the ten year leap from 1.92% to 2.05%. When a single order to sell 100,000 bond futures contracts worth $10 billion hit the market, many thought that a major firm had committed a grievous ?fat finger? error. But the ?cancel and correct? never came, and the trade stood. Clearly, a major hedge fund was betting that the 30 year bull market in bonds had peaked and moved to add some serious downside exposure.

The reason that I missed the extent of the serious rally in risk assets this year is that the current wave of quantitative easing was so paltry. One ?500 billion tranche in December followed by a second on February 29 is only a fraction of the tsunami sized liquidity the Fed?s previous QE1 and QE2 unleashed on the markets.

In any case, most of this cash stayed in Europe, with the banks bidding up sovereign bonds in a frenzied manner to captures a massive positive carry. Italian ten year yields collapsed from over 8% to under 5% in weeks. As expected, none of the dosh made it into the real economy where it could do some actual good. But traders have developed a Pavlovian response to the words ?quantitative easing?, which instantly triggers a rush of buying of all assets everywhere, as it has done in past cycles.

Never mind that the big liquidity surge wasn?t actually there. If you don?t believe me, take a look at the chart below showing the growth of the Fed balance sheet and its correlation with the S&P 500. When US central bank launched QE1 in early 2008, its assets soared from $600 billion to an amazing $1.7 trillion. Since mid-December when the ECB initiated its LTRO, it has climbed from $1.4 trillion to $1.8 trillion, a modest $400 billion, and represents only a recovery of its June 2010 high. That is only 36% of the earlier balance sheet expansion.

Since the onset of quantitative easing five years ago, this aggressive monetary policy tool has created anywhere from $3 trillion to $10 trillion in broader global liquidity. If you take away the punch bowl, the effect on risk assets could be dire. For a preview, take a look at what happened when we were in between QE waves from the end of the last Fed program in June to the European foreign language sequel in December. The S&P 500 collapsed by 25%, gold surrendered $400, and silver cratered nearly 50%, and $40 evaporated off of the price of oil.

I never believed that the Fed would follow up with a QE3, and I am sticking to my guns. None of the money from earlier easings made it into the sectors of the economy that they were attempting to target, like housing and construction. All it did was create bubbles in liquid and fungible global asset prices.

I think the Fed has figured this out by now. If a policy fails twice, then why repeat it a third time? If quantitative easing is truly well and done for good, how will the risk markets respond when they figure this out? The mother of all hangovers could be a safe bet.

Since we?re talking about Europe, good job on the Oscars, France! With Jean du Jardin in ?The Artist?, you won best picture and best actor. It is perhaps ironic that it was for a silent film. Is The Academy trying to tell you something, or what? Sorry, but I can?t resist a good cheap shot, especially when a foreigner takes away the prizes from California?s most illustrious industry. If my amphibious followers want to throw rotten tomatoes at me in person, please buy tickets to my July 17 Paris strategy lunch by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

Well Said, France!